Sexuality is a natural and valuable part of humanity and the self. Although it is an integral part of life, it’s up to each individual to define its meaning in their own life. The foundations of sexuality are built in childhood. The closeness, security and touch you experienced as a child will affect your experience of your body as an adult: whether you perceive it as valuable and beautiful, or whether you feel shame or pain associated with different parts of your body. Our childhood also teaches us emotional and social skills in the context of different relationships. The onset of hormonal activity and changes in the body during adolescence lead to reflection on one's gender and sexual identity. Adulthood is about one’s individual sexuality, which can vary from one life situation to another. Human beings are sexual throughout their lives. Ageing or illness does not mean that sexuality disappears, but for some people, it can change.
Sexual orientation is about who you feel emotionally and erotically attracted to. A heterosexual person is attracted to a member of a different sex than what they are. Homosexuality means that you are sexually attracted to a member of your own sex; a gay man is attracted to men, and a lesbian is a woman attracted to women. Bisexuals are attracted to both men and women. For pansexuals, the sex of the person they are interested in is irrelevant. Asexuality means not feeling sexual attraction towards any person.
Sexuality is also about the experience of gender. Gender identity is a person's own experience of their gender. Gender expression, in turn, is the actions and ways in which an individual expresses their gender.
Sex is an activity aimed at pleasure that can be performed alone or with a partner. Sex can include caresses, kisses, pleasuring your partner with your hands or orally, and intercourse. The most important thing is that sex feels good and fun for everyone involved. Sex is not supposed to cause pain. If intercourse or other sexual contact causes you recurring pain, the cause should be investigated. Recurring pain can negatively affect self-esteem, self-image, and body image. Read more about sex-related pain here.
In order to be able to tell someone about your desires and preferences, it is a good idea to take your time to get to know your own body. When you know your body, it's easier to get aroused together with your sexual partner. A gentle relationship with your body can be learned by touching and looking at yourself. Sex should never be just about your relationship or the pleasure of your partner – sex is always also for yourself. Sex can be an important part of a relationship, but it is not a measure of a good relationship. The amount of desire is individual and can vary from one life situation to another.
Sex always requires the consent of both parties. Everyone has a duty to respect the boundaries of others. A person who is asleep, unconscious, unwell, or very intoxicated cannot give consent for sex. Fear can also paralyse you so that you are unable to express your wishes. Therefore, consent must be secured. Consent is required before each sexual encounter and when sexual behaviour changes. You can refuse to have sex not only beforehand but also when sex has already been agreed to or started. Sex without consent is rape.
Sexual rights are the right of an individual to decide on matters related to their sexuality. The most important sexual rights include:
- The right to enjoy one's sexuality, i.e., the right to enjoy one's sexual orientation and its expression and a balanced sex life.
- The right to sexual education, i.e., the right to comprehensive and varied sex education.
- The right to protect oneself and to be protected, i.e., the right to bodily integrity and support in the event of a violation of bodily autonomy. Everyone has the right to choose their partner and to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
- The right to safe, confidential, and accessible sexual health services. These include pregnancy and childbirth services, infertility care, abortion and post-abortion care, and treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
- The right to be seen and heard without fear of discrimination, harassment, or violence.
- The right to privacy, i.e., the right to make individual decisions about one's sexuality. This means, for example, the right to make independent decisions about contraception and to take care of hygiene during menstruation.
- The right to influence. Everyone has the right and the duty to ensure that sexual rights are fulfilled.